Poisonwood Bible

by: Barbara Kingsolver

Exodus, continued

Leah Price Ngemba

Leah and Anatole struggle to make their farm commune work. They now have four sons, the youngest being Nataniel, named after Nathan. They are anxiously hoping to move across the border to the nation of Angola that is free of foreign rule. However, the nation is currently war torn, in large part due to American interference. Leah is desperate to find a place she would actually like to call her home.

Analysis

The notion of forgiveness pervades The Poisonwood Bible but until now the forgiveness has been associated with Orleanna, as her one guiding goal in life. Here we see the question of forgiveness shift toward Nathan—now that he is dead, can the women in his life forgive him? Only Leah it seems, is capable of doing so. Adah memorializes him coldly, remarking that he was a despicable man. Orleanna too seems completely unmoved by his death, claiming that his death or life means nothing to her. Yet in a sense it seems as if she has forgiven him, or at least moved past caring about him very much at all. The blame she feels for herself is so strong, that it leaves little room for anyone else's guilt.

Leah is the only one to cry over her father's death. Whereas the others feel that they can finally put him out of their minds, Leah thinks sadly of him, pitying him. She wishes that he too could have been redeemed through the "simple human relief of knowing you've done wrong and living through it" (Song of the Three Children: Leah Price). She even names her youngest son after him in an act of honor and love.

In her last narrative of "Exodus," Leah describes how she has become used to the subtle language of her neighbors, in which intonation is as important as the sounds uttered. It is likely that this achievement indicates a deeper one, Leah's successful acculturation into the country she has adopted, her full understanding of its ways and meanings. The subtlety of the local language is something that all the Prices struggled with enormously throughout their stay in the Congo. Nathan, of course, was the only one who never caught on at all to the importance of intonation, preaching every week that Jesus is a fatal Poisonwood Tree, when he meant to declare that Jesus was dearly beloved. Just as each culture has its own linguistic personality, she hints, each of her sisters had their own linguistic personality as well. Though she does not go on to make this further point, the case can also be made that each of these linguistic personalities reveals the deeper personality of the girl. Rachel consistently and unapologetically misuses words. This mirrors the fact that she is self-involved, and wholly inward looking, ignoring the larger world around her. Adah's tendency to read words both backward and forward indicates her brilliance as an observer, her ability to see more in a glance than most could see in a lengthy examination. Ruth May, adventurous, confident, and playful, cheerfully invented her own language in which to communicate with the local children. Finally Leah, who relates to the world through her boundless capacity to love, uses French and Lingala lessons as a pretense under which to spend time with her future husband, Anatole.